Fep got onto the stage and Elder Foru wasted no time before he started the test. He closed his eyes and raised his arms in Fep's direction before mumbling in an ancient language that only he was familiar with.
A few seconds passed and his eyelids slowly peeled back to reveal a set of pure white eyes. "Race: Changeling. Age: Thirty-nine. Energy level: Mid B-rank. Actual strength: Low A-rank. Grade: Mid pass." Elder Foru's voice was very systematic and this led Lone to believe that it wasn't the High Elf who was actually speaking right now.
"Wow. That's really accurate. Scary," Fep laughed lightly.
A few seconds passed and Elder Foru returned to normal. King Ele'hunda nodded towards Elder Foru and Fep, so the testing proceeding onwards with that having served as the opening act.
Now that Lone knew how this test worked, he was greatly confident that either he or Breena would get the best grade. Both of them were able to fight off A-Rankers by themselves, and in the right circumstances, Lone could defeat an XXX-Ranker while Breena could beat an S-Ranker at least.
Normally, Lone would have considered Sophie as well, but due to her age, he wasn't confident that she would even pass, let alone get a good grade.
A few minutes elapsed and several more participants were tested. It seemed like this test had a far lower passing rate than the previous one. Lone assumed that this was due to the fact that a lot of these Elves were young and not greatly accustomed to battle yet, so while they had B or A-ranked strength, their combat abilities were sometimes a whole rank lower than their actual strength.
Falin's number had been called at this point, and he was determined to gain back some of his pride as the front-runner for this examination.
Elder Foru proceeded with the test and announced Falin's results. "Race: High Elf. Age: Thirty-six. Energy level: High A-rank. Actual strength: Low SS-rank. Grade: High pass."
Elder Foru and King Ele'hunda gazed at the young High Elf with prideful and pleased eyes. Obviously, the two would favour their preferred participant. Lone couldn't help but laugh to himself when he saw the challenging look Falin was throwing in his direction.
'I really hope I get to fight that guy during the combat test. That King's got me all riled up. I need to beat the shit out of someone today,' Lone thought to himself and he did nothing to hide this bloodlust.
Falin maintained his happy look and returned to the crowd where he inevitably received the praise of the Elves surrounding him.
The next person of note that was tested was Eko. He was graded as follows: Race: Human. Age: Twenty-six. Energy level: High B-rank. Actual strength: Mid A-rank. Grade: Low pass.
The Demon Princess was next and she was given a slightly better grading. Race: Red-Skinned Demonkin. Age: Seventeen. Energy level: Low A-rank. Actual strength: Low S-rank. Grade: Average pass.
Several Elves had been given low or average passes while a few had been given high passes. Lone wasn't sure if there were any higher grades, but he'd find out soon enough.
Out of all of Lone's direct companions, instead of being last this time, Rachel was first. Her grades surprised everyone and greatly upset Falin.
"Race: Crimson Foxkin. Age: Twenty-one. Energy level: Low A-rank. Actual strength: Low SSS-rank. Grade: Greater Pass." Elder Foru's voice was monotonous, but after that peculiar state passed, a big smile could be seen on his face.
"Once again, you surprise me, Eight-tails. Your power for your age is astounding. Even I couldn't match an SSS-ranker when I was only twenty-one-years-old," King Ele'hunda commented as he clapped his hands.
Just like during the magical aptitude test, Rachel bowed her head slightly before she briskly walked back to Swind's back where she hid again.
Swind craned his head back and looked at the fluffy ball of tails that was busy hiding from the jealous stares being directed at it. 'Miss-ss Sophie acts-ss like this-ss at times too. Was-ss it called 'embarrassment?' I'm unsure of how to feel about this-ss.'
Time quickly passed and the next of Lone's group to get graded was Sophie. Just before she went up, Lone whispered into her ear, "You might get a shitty grade since you're on the older side here and I'm not sure what the average strength for a nearly one-thousand-year-old beautiful girl is, so don't get upset if they fail you, okay? Just come back to me."
Sophie beamed a smile a pecked Lone on the lips lightly. "Mmm, thanks, Lone," she replied happily and then walked towards the stage.
Eolande made Kyuubi walk towards Lone and she looked at him with a mischievous smile. "How sly."
"I have no idea what you're talking about, Eolande," Lone replied, acting the fool.
"Indeed, that was very masterful. You'll have to give me a lesson on chatting woman up at some point in the future, Lone," Fep added with a quiet chuckle.
"What? Did he do something?" Eko asked with a confused look on his face.
Naturally, since he had lived as a monk for almost his entire life, Eko wasn't experienced with the fairer sex. Lone had managed to dodge the bullet of pointing out Sophie's age by adding the sneaky compliment and it was impossible for Eko or the Demon Princess to tell what the fuss was about since they were both very inexperienced.
On the stage, Elder Foru once again entered his strange and mysterious state as he judged Sophie. "Race: Human. Age: Nine-hundred and seventy-three. Energy level: C-rank. Actual strength: High S-rank. Grade: Failure."
'Like I thought, since her growth was stagnated for almost a millennium, she failed. I wonder how strong Soph would be if she had passionately trained for the six-hundred years she was alone in her dimension?' Lone thought to himself.
Even though she had failed, everyone except for lone's immediate group was surprised by Sophie's actual strength. It made no sense for her to be so weak considering her insanely old age for a Human, but her actual strength was shocking.
A C-ranker being able to match a powerful S-ranker? That was a ludicrous thought and it made many believe that Elder Foru might have made a mistake.
"How curious," the Elven King placed a hand on his bearded chin and stared at Sophie.
Eolande noticed that Fep's breathing had gotten rough and there was clearly some desire in his eyes mixed with great shock.
"What are you so agitated for?" Eolande asked with a giggle as she shot a teasing glance at the blue-skinned Changeling, Fep.
"Well," he gulped a mouthful of saliva, "It was hard to believe you when you said that she was that old earlier... Might I ask, has she drank from the fountain of youth?"
"Wait, a fountain of youth exists here on Altros?" Lone asked with a very interested tone in his voice.
He had read many books, studies and theories on Altros and its history, but nothing that he'd studied had mentioned a fountain of youth. Lone couldn't help but feel greedy over the thought of something like that existing here if it was similar to the one from Earth's legends.
"I suppose that was too much to hope for. Please, forget that I said anything at all, Lone," Fep smiled after having regained his former composure and his aloof attitude.
Not only Lone, but everyone else around them had no idea what Fep was talking about, so Lone decided to forget about it for now. He watched the stage once more and saw that the King had stood up and was walking towards Sophie.
"You," the King said while eyeing Sophie somewhat dangerously, "Are you really a C-ranker?" he added with a commanding tone that made his question seem like it could not be left unanswered.
Sophie panicked slightly, but she remembered Lone's words and chose to teleport right to his side. In front of everyone's eyes, Sophie disappeared and reappeared in Lone's arms. Her head was buried in his chest.
"Leave her alone. Go back to your seat and peacefully continue the test," Lone ordered the King arrogantly. 'What is this guy's problem? First, he calls Swind 'useless', and now he's calling Sophie 'you'. Rude bastard.'
Anyone else would have choked if they could have heard Lone's hypocritical thoughts, but like most people, Lone cared only about himself and his loved ones. He couldn't be bothered with the King's feelings and views.
"Nine-tails, although your attitude is severely lacking, you are surrounded by talented companions, so do me one kindness and tell me that girl's true rank. I shan't harm her or you regardless of what your answer is. I am simply not convinced that a nearly one-thousand-year-old Human could exist while only being a C-ranker," King Ele'hunda explained with patience, resulting in the present Elves to raise their already sky-high opinions of him.
'So it's normally impossible for Humans to get so old unless they have a certain amount of strength? This world is so weird. Most Demihumans are nearly immortal, or they don't age after a certain point unless they awaken if they're beastkin, but Humans have normal lifespans? I wonder why? Then again, Swind has a really short lifespan since he's a Lemurian...' Lone pondered.
He sighed and shook his head. "Soph truly is a C-ranker, so I don't know what it is that you want to hear," Lone said as he shrugged his shoulders.
He stroked Sophie's hair and grinned. "However, Allow me to let you in on a little secret. Soph here was only an I-ranker two years ago."
'Mind you, so was I, but hey, that's not important right now. Soph was technically an X-ranker before that and she is still a Cosmos-level being, but I'm not lying,' Lone laughed to himself.
King Ele'hunda's brow furrowed and he tried to find some fault with Lone's words but he simply couldn't. While he wasn't particularly skilled in detecting lies, nor did he have an inherent ability to allow that like Purity Dragonkin did, however, the King was still a very old and experienced man.
"You aren't telling the full truth. Thankfully though, your answer, or more so your lack of an answer, has told me everything that I needed to know. The two of you are very interesting. Please, continue to entertain me." After saying that, King Ele'hunda returned to his seat and prompted Elder Foru to continue the test.
Roughly thirty minutes passed and Eko had been casually talking to Eolande who was lazing about on Kyuubi.
"So that Fox you're riding on, is it your pet?" Eko asked with a broad smile on his face. Clearly, he was quite interested in the soft and fluffy looking Golden Fox.
"Nope," Eolande replied with a chipper tone, "She's Husband and Sophie's adoptive daughter."
"That's a bit weird, but I can see why. A lot of people treat their pets like children, and this fox is really cute, isn't she?" Eko laughed with little consideration in his voice.
"No, she's more their daughter than a pet," Eolande frowned slightly, but neither Sophie nor Lone had bothered to explain, so Eolande just stayed quiet and lazed about on Kyuubi who had decided to curl up and lay on the floor.
It was then that Eolande's number was called out. "Well, time to get a hard failure."
Eko squinted his eyes at that and asked, "Why? You're an X-ranker. Surely you'll pass, won't you?"
"Sure, if it hadn't taken me upwards of two-hundred thousand years to get this strong," Eolande replied with sarcasm overflowing from her voice.
"Stop bitching," Lone chimed in, "and just get it over with," he added with a click of his tongue.
"Yes, husband," Eolande responded with a coy voice, eliciting a small growl from Sophie.
After she had flown up onto the stage, Eko stood still in shock and whispered to himself, "She... she's how old?"
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